By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterJanuary 27, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Sports offers a healthy outlet for children and youth to expel excess energy while promoting a healthy lifestyle, and Fort Rucker Youth Sports is one way parents and children on Fort Rucker can get their feet in the game.
Registration for tee ball, baseball and softball is open through Feb. 17, and Smart Start baseball registration begins Feb. 1 and runs through Feb. 28 to provide youth with a great opportunity to stay fit and healthy, according to Sani Williams, Fort Rucker Youth Sports assistant director.
Baseball and softball registration is $45 per child, and tee ball and Start Smart registration are $25 per child. Teams will be sorted by age groups, which are co-ed 5-6 year-old tee ball, co-ed 7-8 year-old machine pitch, co-ed 9-10 year-old Dixie Minors, co-ed 11-12 year-old Dixie Ozone, girls 9-12 year-old Dixie Ponytails and girls 13-15 year-old Dixie Bells.
All children who wish to participate in youth sports programs must meet age requirements, and have a current sports physical and a valid child and youth services registration.
"Baseball is a competitive team sport and children don't have to be an expert -- they just have to come and get some experience and have fun playing the game," said Randy Tolison, Fort Rucker Youth Sports director. "We try to provide a variety of sports to hopefully introduce youth to a sport they may like and ultimately continue participating in for years to come.
"Several life skills are learned playing sports," he said. "Some of those skills are responsibility, working with others and leadership, just to name a few. Playing sports also introduces youth to peers, resulting in potential lifelong friendships."
For more information on registration, call parent central services at 255-9638.
Coaches are also needed for baseball, tee ball and softball, and anyone interested in coaching should contact Jackie Johnson, youth sports clinician at 255-0950, or call 255-2257 or 255-2254. All coaches must go through the same training and background check process as volunteers, added Tolison.
"We're looking for people who have the time, quality of work, responsibility, kindness and patience to teach our youth the fundamentals of youth sports," said Johnson. "It's important that the volunteers are excited and engaging with the children, because when the coaches are excited about what they're doing then the children are more likely to have fun and participate."
Tolison wants to make sure that people understand that coaching is mostly about the commitment to the children.
"We really like to emphasize to our coaches that if they step in to fill this responsibility, those kids are depending and counting on them to be there for them," he said. "The teams stay pretty active and can practice anywhere from two to three times a week prior to the season. When the season starts, teams will normally practice once a week and play twice a week."
Safety is also a major concern, and volunteers are properly vetted and trained to take on the responsibility. No volunteers will be turned away, said Johnson, but people interested must submit a background packet, which can be filled out at parent central services in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 193, and attend a mandatory training session.
The training sessions last about 3-1/2 to four hours, but if people aren't able to attend the session in one sitting, accommodations can be made, added Johnson.
"We understand that people are busy, and a lot of people find it difficult to come and do the training all at once," said the youth sports clinician. "We will work with them and break up the sessions into times that will accommodate them, but either way, the training must be completed."
During the training, volunteers will get an introduction to coaching, training in coaching the specific sport they are volunteering for, concussion training, and will watch a parent video and complete face-to-face child abuse training with an Army Family Advocacy Program manager. This training also gives the opportunity for volunteers to ask questions about child abuse, added Tolison.
"I've had some coaches tell me that the greatest thing about coaching is when a kid comes up to you outside of practice or games and just gets so excited to see you," he said. "The rewards may not be monetary, but it's one of those intangible moments that is so rewarding."